INTRODUCTION BY WILLIAM YSLAS VÉLEZ, PROJECT FOUNDER

The Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) is proud to present to the pre-college community this collection of brief biographies. The scientists and engineers who are profiled in this series have all obtained the highest academic degree that this country offers, the Doctor of Philosophy, or Ph.D. as it is commonly called.  These women and men are scholars who are dedicated to their work and their communities.  In reading over these biographies, you will see that these scientists and engineers are also special because of their commitment to the very high goals they set for themselves. Furthermore, many of these individuals had to overcome incredible obstacles in order to achieve these goals.

These scientists and engineers are just like you.  Some of them were always excellent students, from grade school through college. Others got "B's" through high school and college, and still others just got average grades. A number of them explain how they wandered around, focusing on one subject and then another, until they discovered what they wanted to do.

As you read these biographies, you will see that these scientists and engineers are intimately involved, not only in scientific matters, but in helping set policy for this country. This is your country and we want you to take an active role in determining its future. Education is the key to accomplishing this. 

In many ways, these biographies are a tribute to every teacher working in elementary, middle, and high schools all over the country.  As you read these stories, you will see that educators themselves play a large role in the success of these scientists. These individuals are successful because sometime during their school years, a teacher expressed confidence in that student.

All of the scientists and engineers in our collection of biographies have exciting and fulfilling careers, and their Ph.D.'s are what helped them get where they wanted to go. A Ph.D. program is wonderful training and is useful in many aspects of life. A Ph.D. teaches you to organize your thoughts, take advantage of resources, and write carefully thought out arguments.

We, who have chosen to spend our lives studying, teaching, and applying science to solve the problems that humanity has encountered, invite the K-12 community to join us in our adventures.  Make no mistake about it -- these are adventures! There is nothing like that feeling when we have finally obtained the insight into a problem that has bothered us for weeks, months, and sometimes years. As scientists, we hope that the world will be a better place because we have chosen to dedicate ourselves to both discovering new phenomena and sharing these discoveries with the world. 

SACNAS realizes that role models play an important role in encouraging students to choose one path over another. These biographies will hopefully serve as positive role models for all of our children.

William Yslas Vélez
Professor of Mathematics
University Distinguished Professor
University of Arizona, Tuscon
Former President, SACNAS

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